Written by Imogen Tarita – Volunteer & Trustee for the Cluny Animal Trust
Photographs supplied by Hester Louw
Imagine a life. A life where no one loves or wants you, where you get passed around from place to place like some kind of disposable item. A life in which all you want is someone to love you, pat you on the head, feed you and look after you and, in return, you’ll be their very best friend forever… Such was the life of a little black-and-tan dog from Mashaeng, Fouriesburg.
Our time with this gentle dog, now named George, started on the 6th of September 2019 after it came to our attention that he was being passed around from house to house – he simply wasn’t wanted. His most recent family surrendered him to us because they didn’t want him either but were worried he’d be poisoned as they’d left him to wander the streets.
Warming up to Cluny
They’d called him Rhino, but, because he didn’t respond to that name at all, we renamed him George Cluny. We estimated that he was around one to two years old – so much sadness in such a short life.
He seemed very timid at first, but that was to be expected because he’d never had anyone to rely on. It honestly took him just a couple of days to warm up to the Cluny Animal Trust team, and we quickly realised that he was the loveliest-natured, most playful boy. We could also tell that he was super smart... Okay, maybe he couldn’t do calculus, but we knew he was going to be the light of someone’s life – we just needed to help find him that someone!
Enter his forever mom, Hester Louw...
A new best friend
Hester contacted us when we were trying to find homes for eight puppies whose mother had been poisoned the day after they were born; she’d seen our Facebook post, which prompted her to call me. She told me about a beloved dog that had passed away and felt that the time had come: she was ready for a new best friend. But she didn’t want a puppy – she preferred to adopt a dog that was a few years older.
Our handsome, sweet-natured George immediately sprang to mind. There was just something about that phone call that I knew we’d found his forever home for him – and that was before we’d done any paperwork, never mind a home check. Everything about that conversation felt right.
George and Hester were simply destined for each other.
We soon did all the necessary paperwork, the home check, and everything else that was needed, and Hester passed with flying colours. And the rest, as they say, is history!
Hester has stayed in touch with the Cluny team. You just have to check out her Facebook page to see how besotted she is with him. They are definitely soulmates; they love each other very much and it warms our hearts knowing that Hester has moved heaven and earth to make sure that George could join her in the USA.
In a time when social media is littered with heart-rending posts about people emigrating but not taking their animals, Hester and George have defied the odds. In fact, we all shed a tear when we saw the pictures of their very happy reunion in the States.
We’re thrilled to have played a role in both of their lives and wish them only the very best as they ride off into the sunset… just like they do in the movies!
Hester, George’s new owner, shares...
Pablo, my Jack Russell, died at the age of 15 years and my heart was broken. But, after a few months, I started contacting a few animal rescue organisations on Facebook in search of a rescue Staffie in need of a forever home. The only one that responded to me was Imogen from Cluny Animal Trust. She told me about George and asked me what I wanted from a dog. I clearly remember telling her that I needed a dog who also needed me.
In January 2020, I met George and his foster family, Dr Katherine Barker, her husband, and their daughter, Hannah, halfway between Nelspruit and Witbank at Milly’s Restaurant. And meeting George was love at first sight and, of course, I knew I had to adopt him.
My mother was terminally ill, and I took care of her. George brought much light and laughter into our lives. He became my companion and went with me wherever I went, even on lovely long road trips.
Fast forward a little while and I’d sold my house in preparation to emigrate. We had a wonderful few months in Kaapschehoop. It was a magical time because dogs walk free and visit each other. Some came for their daily treats and a social visit to our house. The wild horses weren’t even a challenge to George – he’s just one relaxed dog. Soon it was time for me to leave, but George couldn’t go yet, so he moved in with my friend, Rodney, and George’s best friend, Jess, a Staffie who was a day away from euthanasia and was rescued by me and given to Rodney. For four long months, from January to April 2022, I waited in the USA for George’s arrival.
This was a very frustrating time. The travel quote kept on increasing, in the end costing R72,000 more than initially quoted! I had to deal with an agent who booked flights to New York in mid-winter and who didn’t know that when George arrived, Customs would be closed for the weekend – then had to deal with the agent’s sarcasm and incompetence. It was hell!
I couldn’t wait for George to arrive, and when he finally did, I flew from Louisville, Kentucky, to JFK Airport, New York, then took a taxi to The ARK at JFK (an animal airport terminal near the airport) to collect him. George was so tired, but he was very happy to see me, and I was thrilled to see him (and very impressed with The Ark’s friendly and professional service). Together, we headed straight back to JFK and flew home.
George has adjusted very well. He loves his new home with a pond and creek on it, and is a bit obsessed with the squirrels! The other two dogs, Luca and Rudi, which belong to my son Erwin and his wife, Summer, are his new “homies”. They’re also rescues from the Humane Society. He also enjoys frequent visits with Frida, my daughter Celia’s Lab mix, who’d been lost in the Appalachian Mountains and people hiking there brought her home. She walked 80 miles (almost 129km) with them. Frida treats George as her baby.
Thank you, Cluny Animal Trust, for my companion, and thank you for doing so much for animals in need!